FCF Funded Projects

Developing the foundation for an immunotherapy program to treat fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma

Status: Completed

Timeframe: 2020 – 2021

Goal: Understand the characteristics of the immune cells within FLC, and use this knowledge to optimize immunotherapy for this disease

Principal Investigator: Venu Pillarisetty, MD, Professor of Surgery, General Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine

Despite the application of many advanced treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy, most patients with FL-HCC die of the disease. The immune system serves to protect the body from not only from infections but also from cancer; therefore, it has long been a goal of scientists to understand how to create therapies for cancer that enhance this natural defense system. Immunotherapy has recently become a reality for many types of cancer including liver cancer, and it is hoped to extend this work to FL-HCC. The goals of this project were:

  • To learn more about the types of immune cells that exist in FL-HCC, as some of these cells called tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) play a critical role in how patients respond to immunotherapy
  • To attempt to grow these cells from fresh tumors,using a technique to grow slices of tumor in culture, which most closely mimics the real tumor in patients.
  • To apply time lapse microscopy in live tumor samples to be able to watch the interaction of the immune system with tumor cells.

This project aimed to expand the understanding of the characteristics of the immune cells within FL-HCC, while simultaneously using this knowledge to optimize immunotherapy for this disease.